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Aus planning new anti-torture law

Australia's government is considering adoption of a United Nations protocol on torture and passage of a law that would ban the interrogation technique of waterboarding, the attorney general said on Friday.

world Updated: Aug 08, 2008 14:00 IST

Australia's government is considering adoption of a United Nations protocol on torture and passage of a law that would ban the interrogation technique of waterboarding, the attorney general said on Friday.

The center-left Labor Party government wants to improve relations with the UN, which it says were damaged when its conservative predecessor sent troops for the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq without a clear mandate from the world body.

The previous government also refused to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture which a Labor government signed in 1984.

Attorney General Robert McClelland said the government was discussing ratification of the protocol, which would open Australian prisons to UN inspectors, with Australia's states. He said the government was also considering a law that would create a new crime of torture and outlaw practices including waterboarding.

"Unquestionably, it is torture and we believe it offends the convention and indeed, if legislation is introduced, would offend the legislation," McClelland told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

There is no record of Australian authorities using waterboarding, which is a form of simulated drowning.

However, Australia's most important ally, the United States, has used it in the interrogation of terrorism suspects. CIA Director Michael Hayden banned waterboarding in 2006, but government officials have said it remains a possibility if approved by the US attorney general, the CIA chief and the US president.

Philip Ruddock, the previous Australian government's attorney general, said it did not condone torture but did not believe Australia should ratify the protocol until UN structures are reformed.